"He fired once, and fired two, and a bullet whistled into the bushes … You shoot like a soldier," Kamal said, "I'll see how you drive!"
("Ballad of the West and East", R. Kipling).
However, all of their "backwardness" (there is no other way to say) overshadowed the United States with their rifle! There, the army (infantry and cavalry) received a rifle and a carbine designed by Allen and Erskine of the 1873 model, which became a development of their previous model of 1868, with a folding bolt! Moreover, both the rifle and the carbine were consistently modernized in 1877, 1878, 1880, 1884 and, finally, in 1888, but they were never replaced by new models! No, no one wants to say that this rifle was poorly designed - on the contrary, very well. Weighing, for example, a carbine of 3, 197 kg, it had a caliber of 11, 43 mm, and had quite decent accuracy and good destructive power. The 1888 cartridge received a heavy bullet, which had an initial speed of 395 m / s and a very decent maximum range - 3200 m!
Rifle "Springfield" M1873, the breech is open. Next to her is a cartridge from this rifle.
These are all its advantages. There are very few downsides, but they are of a fundamental nature. In order to fire a shot, you must first cock the hammer, then flip the bolt, shake the cartridge case out of the chamber, remove and insert the cartridge into the barrel, close the bolt and only after all this, aim and shoot! Too long, isn't it? But especially long compared to the Beaumond, Gras and Mauser rifles! Of course, if you get used to it, you can kill a person with a stone, especially if you hit him in the head, but … under all other circumstances, I, for example, would never dare to go out to fight with the Springfield rifle mod. 1873-1888 (this name she received in the United States by the name of the arsenal-manufacturer) against a man armed with the same Mauser or Gra rifle! Moreover, it is absolutely known that it was the Springfield cavalry carbine that was the cause of the defeat of General Custer's detachment in the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. Excavations at the site of the battle showed that the Indians simply suppressed the American cavalrymen with fire from their Henry and Winchester rifles. But … at that time, the main criterion for the quality of weapons among the American congressmen was its cheapness, which is why they loved Springfield. For the same reason, they fell in love with the Colt-1872 revolver, but they refused the Smith and Wesson (adopted in service in Russia in 1871) because of its … high cost: “Well, not everyone is as rich as these Russians !"
Rifle "Springfield" М1873
And it would be fine if the Americans did not have before their eyes again their own decent sample of the rifle - so it was! We are talking about the rifle of Hiram Berdan, the very "Berdan" that again went overseas to Russia. And it would be fine that this was the first sample of his rifle in 1868, which differed from the Springfield only in that the hammer had a cylindrical, not a flat spring, and in addition also locked the bolt when fired. But they also had a Berdan rifle No. 2, model 1870, with a sliding bolt, caliber 10, 67-mm, chambered for a very good “Berdan” cartridge. A smaller, albeit a little, caliber would ensure the economy of lead and copper during mass production, well, and about its high combat characteristics, you can not even talk about it.For example, the bullet speed of an infantry rifle was 424 m / s (that is, almost the same as that of the Mauser), and the carbine was 357 m / s. Compared to the Berdanka, Springfield is just junk. But … there are no and there were no prophets in their homeland, be it Russia or the United States. And again, it was not for nothing that the US then adopted the Krag-Jorgensen rifle (which has already been discussed on TOPWAR).
Photo of 1886. The chief of the tribe Geronimo (right) with the Springfield M1873 rifle and his sons with the Winchester M1873 carbines.
That is, everything was already before my eyes. Military intelligence and military attachés worked. Samples of weapons were bought and sold, as a last resort, they could always be stolen. But … nevertheless, the American government completely ignored such a phenomenon as technological progress. As a result, some pitiful Turks there entered the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78. armed with very good Peabody Martini rifles (although on the Caucasian front they had worse rifles - 14.66mm Snyder rifles) and Winchester magazine rifles!
But the Americans were copied in Europe, and quite successfully, and all in the same 1871! Then - and almost simultaneously with the Mauser, the very original rifle of Joseph Comblin entered service with the Belgian army. The caliber is traditional for this year - 11-mm, the bolt is also sliding, but it only slides not horizontally, but … vertically and at the same time is also controlled by the trigger guard-lever, like Henry's rifles and Winchesters!
Receiver of the Comblen rifle.
For shooting, the bracket, like that of a hard drive, had to be moved down and forward. At the same time, the bolt was lowered in the grooves, the sleeve was extracted, the cartridge was inserted into the barrel, and when the bolt was put in its original place, the hammer was cocked automatically. At the same time, the trigger spoke protruded from the receiver, and it could be smoothly lowered and so put on a safety platoon, and if necessary, squeezed back and shoot. In the closed position, the bracket, as was customary on all such systems, was fixed with a special spring-loaded latch. To remove the bolt together with the lock from the receiver, you need to unscrew only one screw, which also serves as the bolt swing axis. Thanks to this device, the barrel can be cleaned with a ramrod from both sides. However, the highlight of the design is the flat mainspring of the bolt, taken out of its mechanism into … the trigger bracket!
The shutter is open. There is a mainspring just behind the trigger in a metal case!
The Comblen rifle bolt together with the bracket.
Top view of the closed bolt of the Comblen rifle.
Top view of the open shutter.
Bolt carrier made of bronze with a barrel screwed into it.
By the way, the cartridge for the Comblen rifle was, according to its data, very similar to the Mauser one. The bayonet to the Comblen rifle is also very similar to … the bayonet from the Chasspot rifle of 1866, which the Belgians copied practically "one to one."
Cartridge for the Comblen rifle.
Belgian cavalryman with Comblin carbine.
It is interesting that, despite all its wonderful qualities - simplicity, insensitivity to pollution, and cheapness, the rifle was adopted only in the Belgian National Guard, and the carbine - in the cavalry! True, captivated by its rate of fire, the Comblen rifle was approved by the military of Peru, Brazil and Chile, where she became famous during the Second Pacific War, but … that was where her career ended. Reasoning hypothetically, the carbine and the Comblen rifle could become an ideal "basis" for making … cutoffs ("cuts"), which during the Civil War in Russia from everything that bandits, kulaks and deserters made for themselves at hand. But … Comblen's rifles were not supplied to Russia, so they had to be content with the less convenient "hard drives" of the 1895 model and their own "three-rulers".
The device of a Vetterly rifle with an under-barrel magazine.
Rifle Vetterly model 1872.
The Italians in 1872 adopted the Swiss Wetterli rifle of 10, 4-mm bolt action, designed in 1871, but … without the magazine that was present on his 1867-69 model rifle. That is, the Swiss were able to evaluate the connection into one whole of the slide sliding in the horizontal plane (and appreciated it!) With an under-barrel magazine, but the Italians considered this magazine to be a clear overkill.
Scheme of the operation of the bolt and the Gra rifle magazine.
And only the French in the decade we are considering, from 1871 to 1881, decided to equip the Gra rifle with such a magazine. As a result of the work carried out in 1877 and 78, the Gra-Kropachek rifle with a magazine for seven 11-mm rounds entered service with the French army. In 1878, the Beaumond rifle was similarly altered in Denmark, and it became known as the Beaumond Vitali Model 1871-78. But the store in it was packaged, middle, and not under-barrel and contained only four cartridges.
French Zouaves with Gras rifles.
Finally, later than everyone else, namely in 1881, a single-shot rifle chambered for a reduced caliber (10, 15-mm) and a sliding breech of Yarman's design was immediately adopted by both Sweden and Norway. Nine years later, it was easily converted into a shop, which once again proved the promise of a horizontal sliding shutter. After all, no matter how perfect the Remington and Comblin locks are, it is impossible in principle to combine them with any store.
Well, what about the conclusion? The conclusion is obvious, and it is supported by the following statistics: in addition to the above systems, seven rifles with vertical and crane bolts were tested and proposed in these 10 years, and only one with a horizontal bolt. That is, people, including the "creators of weapons", are very … conservative by nature creatures. They are trying to preserve the "good past" and do not want to think a little about the future!
Berdan rifle shutter devices.
Those designers who acted in the right direction, well, let's say, such as the same Hiram Berdan or Paul Mauser, received universal recognition (just remember how many of the same “Berdanks” have faithfully served us in Russia!) And millions of copies of the issue their samples. Those who … looked back even in those cases when they created something technically perfect, found themselves in the position of "caliph for an hour", and their creations were very soon forgotten! And yet - how far-sighted in Russia were the Minister of War Milyutin, and, of course, Tsar Alexander II, who supported all his undertakings.
Sectional view of the Berdan rifle mechanism.
There is one more circumstance to which you should pay attention: these are cartridges! They were all practically the same design and even the same caliber. For some reason, no one tried, for example, to create an effective cartridge specifically for a rifle with an under-barrel magazine? Well, the side fire cartridges failed. Cartridges with central engagement primers turned out to be better. But if there was a danger of the primer pinning in the center of the bottom of the sleeve, then it was not at all difficult to come up with and put into it … an annular primer in the form of a piece of tube! The consumption of copper would increase quite insignificantly, but the number of misfires would decrease, the ignition of the charge would become more intense, and the bullet, including the one with a sharp head, would not rest against the capsule, but against the bottom of the sleeve!
Or, say, why not accept for rifles cartridges with an elongated muzzle and a bullet recessed into the sleeve, that is, similar to the cartridge for the Nagant revolver? Again, the consumption of non-ferrous metal for an elongated muzzle would also increase slightly, but the bullet in it did not loosen, and this is important, the tightness of the cartridge increased significantly, and … in addition, in the under-barrel magazine, the bottom of one cartridge rested against the muzzle of the other, that is, a pin the central engagement capsule would have been eliminated in principle. But … for some reason, at that time no one began to engage in such developments, as if some kind of taboo was imposed on them!